Guide Focus: Abram Tsumib, Mushara Lodge
Issue 4 (May 2009) From father to son. Abram Tsumib is from the Hei-///chum, a nomadic San tribe that was forcibly moved out of Etosha in the early 1950s. Abram’s father Jan had to leave his birth place, half a kilometre away from a snake-ridden waterhole called Ngobib.


Unlike many Hei-///chum, Jan was able to return to Etosha. Some twenty years after his eviction he applied for a job with Namibia Wildlife Resorts. He missed the bush and wanted to see his parents’ graves.

His knowledge of Etosha became legendary. It was said he could look at the spoor of an animal and tell you what it was thinking, predicting with remarkable accuracy what it would do next. He progressed through the ranks from labourer to warden. Working in Etosha in the 1970s was frequently dangerous. The park was unfenced, and Jan had to round up animals that had strayed onto neighbouring farmland and bring them back to the park. He enticed lions back by galloping past them on a horse, dragging an antelope carcass.

With the job came a small house at Namutoni where his son Abram was born  in 1985 – possibly the last Hei-///chum ever to be born in Etosha. His father was keen to pass on his bush knowledge, and Abram dreamed of becoming a park ranger or a safari guide even before he started school.

“I always wanted to be close to my father when he was working, and when I couldn’t go with him on patrol, I used to throw stones at the car when he left – luckily I wasn’t a very good shot,” remembers Abram, who now works as a guide with Mushara Lodge.

During school holidays Abram worked with his father every day, including helping when Jan was part of the team that reintroduced black rhino to Etosha.

Abram carries the engraved penknife that was given Jan on his last day at work. Now, when he takes tourists from Mushara on safari, he still visits that Ngobib Waterhole where his father was born. “Ngobib means ‘place where water gets lesser,’ and right now it is so dry it looks like a small cave,” he says.

Having been brought up in Etosha, Abram’s knowledge of the park – including areas that are now out of bounds – is fascinating. Recently, he accompanied a photographer who had permission to visit Mushara Waterhole, in a restricted area. “I was so excited about the trip,” says Abram. “I thought that when my father retired I would never get to visit there again. I was able to tell the photographer exactly what we’d see – lions, elephants and rhino, but no leopard. We went on five consecutive days, each time for twelve long hours. It was so beautiful. On the last day we saw 15 lions”. It was a sight Abram enjoyed telling his father about.

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